Location: San Carlos, Panama

As Im writing this, the moon has begun to peek out above us, looking smug with its bright and crooked smile. A few days ago, news of heading back to Panama (i.e., Becoming the first Semester students to ever complete the Panama Bay Circumnavigation, an enviable feat to any true mariner) was met with understandable disappointment, a bit of anxiety, and the general feeling that we were headed backward in our progress. The truth existed so far away from these initial expectations. Relying on the sails rather than the secure but admittedly monotonous hum of the engine turned our students into true sailors. A veil was lifted, and the students can now see the sails in their full essence – as living, breathing tools. Ones that you can make happy or upset, that work as a unit, that can carry us safely home. You wouldnt believe me (and neither would I) if I told you days ago that turning around would be something we collectively ended up grateful for, but it is. Students now have a full grasp of each of the sails and are geared up to cross the Pacific, truly at the helm of the voyage, and I couldnt be more excited. And as a bonus, the propeller breaking means that my best friend Travis Yates (read: yah TAYYZ) got to fly down and hang out with us!

Today, students returned from a morning of surfing slightly rosier than they left (either from the sheer excitement of shredding the gnar for the first time or a touch of sunburn). After a yummy lunch of black bean burgers from Gabby, they earned the afternoon off to catch up on snack runs, laundry, Zzzs, schoolwork, or with loved ones back home. To those reading this blog to check in on Gabby particularly, I urge you all to force her to cook for you when she returns home. She treated us to DELICIOUS sweet potato biscuits and honey butter this morning and finished the day with homemade meatballs and hearty pasta. While the students were on shore, us staff worked on projects on board, and Im so excited to announce that our old propeller is a thing of the past, and our super shiny new one, conveniently also with only four blades, but this time intentionally is ON!!!! We plan to leave tomorrow to head to the GALAPAGOS!

If youre wondering who occasionally moonlights as the (EDITORS NOTE:) in the blogs, its me. Students will often ask me, especially on passages where days have the ease of blurring together, what they should write about in the blogs. I tell them to write about anything and remind them that you all have the joy of being their captive audience and that they should take advantage of that. Today I want to use my blogination to talk to you all about my favorite Sea|Mester tradition, SQUEEZE. As you have gathered by now, the squeeze has two parts – a question of the day from the skipper and a daily appreciation.

Tonight, I asked everyone what compliment you would most like to receive and then prompted everyone to then give that compliment to someone else in the circle. You may be thinking, that is so cheesy. You may be right! Personally, I think compliments can often feel as though they fit over us like a lumpy sweater from the nurses lost and found bin. Sometimes hearing what you mean to people makes you want to crawl out of your own skin (ex., then what do you appreciate about Allie’s squeeze question of a few days back) – but all of that awkwardness may be worth it in the face of the rarity of moments where we do get to hear what we mean to people. For those sentences or fragments of them where you realize, especially in this vacuum of an environment, that someone is seeing you and really understanding who you are in a way that is hard to replicate elsewhere. Even if what they are seeing is that you have the weirdest toes on board, the most mullet-able hair, or that you are the resident stroopwafel connoisseur on board.

Taking time in each day to reflect on what you appreciate about it was one of the best lessons I walked away with after being a Seamester student. Here, I find myself never able to land on just one (sorry to those looking for a speedy squeeze). On longer passages, especially where days follow a pretty set routine, appreciation can be tiny details that no one realizes others noticed. My seamester experience left me with such gratitude for these small moments. Ultimately I was led back here from the sticking thought that this is the place where I struggle to limit myself to share just one useless miracle, and that is how we spend our days is ultimately how we spend our lives, and that those useless miracles add up to some pretty sweet days.

Were all headed out for a sign-out night now, relaxing and celebrating our success here in Panama and Galapagos Departure Eve.

So maybe the moon looks down at us and laughs because it knows everything isnt meant to go as planned, or because of our silly human need for connection, or maybe even because it thinks we are following it on a long car ride home.